Mark Thomas - The editor and big chief of The Dubrovnik Times. Born in the UK he has been living and working in Dubrovnik since 1998, yes he is one of the rare “old hands.” A unique insight into both British and Croatian life and culture, Mark is often known as just “Englez” or Englishman. He is a traveller, a current affairs freak and a huge AFC Wimbledon fan.
An exhibition entitled “Faces of the Balkans” by Olaf Jordan has opened in the Ethnographic Museum Rupe in Dubrovnik and features a series of portraits by this Swedish painter. Olaf Jordan (1902 – 1968) spent time in Dubrovnik and the region in the 1930s and through his paintings captured the essence of the diversity of the region.
The Dubrovnik Times caught up with his daughter, Sybille Göthe from Sweden, who has donated 72 reproductions of her father’s work to the Ethnographic Museum. These drawings feature people in national costumes from the Dubrovnik region. And thanks to this very donation the Ethnographic Museum was able to organize this exhibition. “Faces of the Balkans.” The exhibition includes paintings from 1935 to 1938, during which time Olaf Jordan was staying in the area. The exhibition will continue until the 14th of May.
Olaf Jordan was born in 1902 in Decin in Bohemia in the Czech Republic. He studied art at the Dresden Academy 1920-25 and then made study trips throughout southern Europe. He stayed for longer periods in France and Holland and lived in Yugoslavia between 1935 and 1938. After the German annexation of the Sudetenland in 1938 Jordan had to return to Decin. He was eventually conscripted by the German army and was assigned to a Cossack Division in 1942 as an army artist. He lived with these Cossacks on the Balkan front till May, 1945. In 1947 he could reunite with his family in Sweden. He gradually established himself as a portrait and landscape painter in the town of Linköping, where he died in 1968.
Your father lived for some time in Dubrovnik. Do you consider Dubrovnik as a second home? What does the city mean to you?
Dubrovnik has never been my second home, although my parents lived there in the 1930’s. My elder sister spent her childhood in Dubrovnik, but I was born in Bohemia in 1941, after my parents had to return there when it was attached to the German Reich by Hitler and Olaf was conscripted to the German Army. I live in Sweden and visited Dubrovnik for the first time in 1965 with my mother Helfrid. Dubrovnik had always been mentioned with such affection in my family, so to me it was like a fairy- tale place, a place to long back to, with unparalleled beauty and friendliness, to live a happy life in, but at the same time beyond reach behind the iron curtain. We followed with great emotions the war in the 1990s, the struggle for freedom and independence versus the destruction and horror when the region tried to come back to its feet. The feeling of almost having had Dubrovnik as my home has given me a certain bond to the town.
Did your father have a desire to return to Dubrovnik or to the Balkans after World War II? What were his thoughts and opinions on the Balkans, Croatia and Yugoslavia after the war?
After WWII my father´s world was broken up. As a German soldier he was not allowed to leave Germany until 1947. Having lost his two homes, his parental in Bohemia and his own house in Dubrovnik, both now behind the Iron curtain, he could only hope to join his family in Sweden, where they had managed to go, his wife being Swedish. It was not a situation for desiring to return to either Bohemia or Dalmatia. – I never heard him discuss the Balkans etc, it was lost and beyond reach anyway. Finding foothold in Sweden took all his energy.
Many original works of your father have been lost. How did this happen? You have donated 72 reproductions to the Ethnographic Museum in Dubrovnik, what happened to the originals?
We have always wondered. The collection with the 15 colour portraits, meant for publication, disappeared in Prague during WWII. My parents tried to get in contact with the publisher but with no result. All the black and white photos were sent to my father in Sweden, when he finally had an address to send things to, by his brothers and friends on the continent who had got them from him earlier. Olaf seems to have sent them around in the peace time between the wars to show what he was doing. Four originals have turned up to our knowledge, three in the Decin museum (Czech Rep.) and one in Austria.
What is the perception of your father’s work in Sweden?
My father established himself as a portrait and landscape painter in the town of Linköping, Sweden. He did not become much known outside that region, as only modernity counted on the art scene. His style of exact rendering of what he saw was against him. This is not generally what people want today either.
He started making his living in Sweden in 1947 with child portraits in a very delicate manner primarily with pencil. Finding that official portraits in oil were better paid he began with that and did quite well, though with ups and downs, for twelve years, until he was hit by a stroke in 1960 and could no longer write his name. Today only some few people who knew him and his art appreciate him, but then very much so.
Some of the works that your father created whilst he was a member of the Wehrmacht are kept in Washington. Do you think these works will ever come back to Sweden and why it is so difficult to reach them and return them to their homeland?
The history of this ‘war art’ is this: Artists who were enrolled in the special staff of war artists thanked their lucky stars that they did not have to serve as soldiers. They were employed by the Propaganda Ministry, so their work belonged to the state of Germany. Some artists who adopted the ideas got their work published, whilst others saw the true side of war and illustrated that.
After the war the Allies got hold of thousands of these German war paintings, they were stored and meant never again to be returned to Germany. A number were stored in the Pentagon, among them pictures by Olaf Jordan. There they were discovered as true images of individuals who are victims of war and circumstances, and an exhibition was shown in 1975 in USA that drew much attention and praise.
However, the storing of all this ‘war art’ was a costly problem, but what to do with it? In the 1990s they were returned to Germany. Some of it reached The German History Museum in Berlin, among them about 40 of Olaf Jordan´s portraits and sketches. In the collection in Berlin his art stands out, and when I came there in 2009, just as they were busy registering them, the plan was to make an exhibit of his war-time art. Finances became tight, however, so the plan was put to rest.
A few years after the war after my parents had found out that these sheets were in the USA, they had tried to get them back. It could not happen then, and we do not want them anymore. They are best kept where they are now.
What perception of Dubrovnik or the Balkans in general do the Swedes have?
My impression is that people in Sweden now rediscover it as a fine tourist goal. There is in Sweden also bonds created by immigrants and refugees. Many refugees came to Sweden following the conflict in the 1990s and some of them have done extremely well and made themselves at home in this country. Now people return to the new nations that have been created in Yugoslavia´s place, and especially Croatia is popular to visit, and more and more Swedes are discovering Croatia and Dubrovnik for all it offers.
“There is a reason why the Game of Thrones was filmed in Croatia,” reads the description of the latest video on Croatia to storm Youtube. Croatia from Above is the name of a new video showing the amazing natural beauty of the country from a bird’s eye view.
In only a few days the video has already picked up over 22,000 views and it is continuing to grow. Dubrovnik is featured in the video along with the natural beauty of the Krka national Park and the Paklenica National Park.
Check out this latest Croatia aerial video!
The people of Dubrovnik have had a close relationship with cats since the city's very beginning. Indeed, there were times during the dark ages when the very presence of cats and their ability to hunt disease spreading rats meant the difference between life and death. Lately though, these resilient little creatures are taken for granted and often neglected. Blanche ,a feisty and beautiful little five month old girl, is like many other kittens who face their own life and death battle in the city every day.
Blanche is different; she only has three legs but is however, as active and playful as any other kitten. She is a strong, beautiful and friendly little girl who desperately needs a loving home. She is named after the famous Parisian socialite, Blanche Dumas who managed to not only survive but prospered in the upper echelons of French society carrying a very unusual disability - she was born with three legs. The product of a French father and a black mother she had very humble beginnings on the island of Martinique but was none the less able to find a new live in Paris.
It is said that cats have nine lives and indeed this belief lay at the foundation of several ancient religious cults. According to Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase a cat is said to have nine lives because it is "more tenacious of life than many animals". As far back as 1894 scientific experiments were held to try and work out why cats seem to be able to survive falls from nearly impossible situations. Photographic evidence showed that the key, it turned out, was their ability to always land on their four feet due to their innate acrobatic abilities. As the cat falls an automatic twisting reaction begins and the cat manoeuvres its head, back, legs and tail to ensure that it lands safely.
She has almost used up her nine lives
The first life Blanche had is unknown but will have been a privileged one having been born into a local family. But that life of privilege changed dramatically on Christmas Eve when she was dumped by her owner at Sveti Jacob. Abandoned and forced to fend for herself she should have died that cold winter night but instead her second life had begun. Helped by a few generous souls who drop food off to the many abandoned cats in the area she fought for her small share to help give her strength to face the cold northerly wind. Slowly she began to cope with her new environment and formed a bond with two other kittens who were also fighting to survive. But one day, this new life had another twist and she was critically injured. Sheltering out of the rain under a parked car she fell asleep and was run over when the car moved on and was badly injured.
The third life for Blanche had begun. After the accident Blanche dragged herself into one of the little cat boxes which have been built by kind people who understand that cats have needs as well as other animals. She lay there for a day until fate took a hand again and a kind samaritan noticed her little head and bright yellow eyes peering out of the darkness of the box. She could have died a long and lonely death but instead he took her to a veterinarian. She had lost a lot of blood and the prognosis was not good. Most importantly the nerve in her left front leg had been severed and she could never walk on it again. The leg had to be amputated and her next life had begun.
Typically she has fought back and made a full recovery as cats do after having this operation. Indeed they lead full and normal lives as they are able to adjust to their disability.
The kind people at the Dubrovnik Animal Shelter are caring for her after the operation.
Perhaps someone would like to share her next life and make her a member of their family. If that person is you, please contact Ljubica on +385 (0)95 9045623 and she will introduce you to the remarkable Blanche.
The Dubrovnik Tourist Board has released figures on the number of tourists in Dubrovnik for this Easter holiday period. There are currently 5,551 guests staying in the city, in hotels, private accommodation and other accommodation facilities, this figure is on a par with the results achieved in 2015.
The majority of tourists are from Spain, Croatia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, USA, Greece, Japan, the United Kingdom and South Korea.
The Easter Holidays are traditionally the beginning of the tourist season in Dubrovnik and the vast majority of the city’s hotels, restaurants, cafes, etc are now open. The first cruise ships arrived in Dubrovnik last weekend and the historic Old City is relatively busy.
The tourist season in Dubrovnik begun earlier and stronger than usual with the Mercedes Global Training Event which brought sales representative and managers of the famous German car brand to Dubrovnik from all over the world. So far the event, which ends on the 14th of April, has achieved an additional 55,222 tourist arrivals and 137,628 overnight stays.
Dancers, performances, Easter decorations, eggs and bags of warm sunshine – Easter Sunday in Dubrovnik was magical. After the Holy Mass that was held in the city’s cathedral the good weather brought many people out onto the streets of the Old City of Dubrovnik.
“It is such a terrific atmosphere, and the weather is unbelievable,” commented a tourist from the UK. According to data from the Dubrovnik Tourist Board around 6,000 tourists are currently staying in Dubrovnik and the sunshine and Easter atmosphere certainly impressed them.
A presentation of traditional Easter egg painting was held by members of the association “Dubrovnik Primorje Wedding,” and tourists were shown the details and work that go into making these mini masterpieces.
Palm weaving, another traditional Easter custom was also on show, and guests to the Easter celebrations were entertained by folk dancing and vocal choirs. There was also a flower sale with all proceeds going towards the Down syndrome society in Dubrovnik.
Easter, the beginning of the tourist season in Dubrovnik, in the city was one to remember, not least for the endless blue skies and glowing sunshine.
Photos by Zeljko Tutnjevic
The former military resort of Kupari, south of Dubrovnik, has been a blot on the landscape since it was destroyed in the Homeland War in the early nineties, but now a street artist has given it a new funky feel, at least temporarily. Using the trash and waste materials in the bombed out shells of the hotels, plus a few hundred litres of paint and rolls of tape, the Kupari resort is now a living exhibition of street art, or trash art.
Francisco de Pajaro, aka Art is Trash, is a Spanish street artists based in Barcelona. He is a globetrotting artist who has created this special art form in many countries. “Art is Trash has astounded not only passersby in the streets of London, Berlin, Nantes, France, Dubai, Barcelona, New York, Chicago and Miami, but also gallery owners and art curators who are hungry for straightforward, instinctive and honest artists who love taking things that society considers ugly and making them beautiful or fun,” states the artists website.
The Spanish artist spent 25 hours in Kupari and painted over 6,000 square metres. He has created “new guests” in the hotel, a total of 133 new drawings or new guests. However this will definitely be a temporary exhibition as the whole resort has recently been sold to a hotel chain and the demolishers and bulldozers are expected to move in soon.
Check out this amazing video of Francisco de Pajaro at work in Kupari.
The only major supermarket that will be closed on Easter Monday throughout Croatia is the German chain Lidl.
The biggest Croatian supermarket chain Konzum will be closed on Easter Sunday but the vast majority will be open on Easter Monday.
Depending on the store Konzum stores will be open from 7am to 1pm on Monday, however The Dubrovnik Times has learned that the Konzum in the SUB City shopping centre in Zupa will be open all day on Monday from 8am to 9pm.
Spar has announced that their stores will all be closed on Sunday but will be open on Monday from 8am to 2pm.
Tommy supermarket will, as the rest, be closed on Sunday but is believed to be operating a normal working service on Monday.
The Easter Holidays are upon us and the Old City of Dubrovnik is shining with decorations. An Easter bunny, a basket of Easter eggs and of course chicks have been installed at the end of the main street, the Stradun, and are proving a magnet for children, young and old.
Easter is traditionally the beginning of the tourist season in Dubrovnik and many more airplanes have been seen in the skies today. The city expects around 6,000 tourists to arrive over the Easter holiday period and the number of tourists sightseeing today show that this number might even be more.
Check out our gallery of photos of Dubrovnik’s Easter decorations by Niksa Duper.